String of violent crime in west Houston

January 26, 2009 4:27:44 PM PST
Shots fired, guns drawn and customers threatened with their lives -- a violent crime spree in west Houston has police working overtime and investigators trying to figure out their next move. A rash of aggravated robberies on the west side has caught the attention of police and they're now stepping up patrols. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

This comes after a robbery Friday night at a crowded restaurant on Westheimer. The previous weekend, people were held up at a pool hall in the same shopping center. This all follows the shooting death of a woman at a gas station on the west side in late November.

Violent crime in an area like this is bad for business, plain and simple. Local business owners, who've been here for years, know that all too well. In addition to requesting more patrols, some are even taking precautions of their own as police try to track down the suspects.

Thirty-three years ago Joe Mannke opened a restaurant in west Houston.

"People were laughing," he recalled. "They said this is still Indian territory."

Mannke eventually shut it down and opened a new one seven years ago on Westheimer. Businesses may come and go, but Mannke's love for the west side has remained constant.

"It's a very, very fast growing area," he said. "I think it's the fastest growing area in Houston."

But being a business owner here, Mannke says, has its drawbacks. There have been two recent armed robberies on Westheimer -- one Friday night at the nearby Le Viet restaurant and the other at a nearby pool hall last Sunday -- as well as the murder of a young woman two months ago at a gas station down the street. These violent crimes have him and so many other neighboring businesses on alert.

"Of course we're concerned, like I said, this is our livelihood here," Mannke explained.

Police, who are now connecting the two robberies, are not taking their concerns lightly.

Officer Stephen Hendrie with the Houston Police Department said, "These guys are dangerous and bold individuals. It's obviously high on our radar right now. We're definitely giving it a high priority."

While patrols in the neighborhood have been stepped up, Mannke, who uses security cameras and silent alarms, hopes the bad guys can take a hint.

He said, "It's always good to see more cars around, constable, police cars driving up and down. The more the better. That, of course, will scare people away."

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